Words of the Year 1990-2011


Every year at their annual conference, the American Dialect Society votes on and announces its Word of the Year. This practice began in 1990 and has included Words of the Decade (web for the ’90s and google for the ’00s), Word of the Century (jazz), and Word of the Millennium (she). With every year’s announcement, controversy ensues. Of course. Because people love to debate such things.

Below is an infographic with all the Words of the Year to date. Feel free to share it and feel free to share your opinions of the various selections. If you’d like more information on the words themselves, the reasons for their selection, and/or the various other words that were in contention, please visit the website of the American Dialect Society, which has all this and more.

The WOTY for 2012 won’t be announced for another month or so, and the debate has already begun. Ben Zimmer gives his nominations here. They include: malarkey, self-deportation, fiscal cliff, 47 percent, pink slime, Gangnam style, YOLO, and selfie. What’s your pick? Something not on that list? Let’s make our predictions early!

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Words of the Year 1990-2011

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Brian WaskoBrian is the founder and president of WriteAtHome.com. One of his passions is to teach young people how to write better.View all posts by Brian Wasko

  1. Will

    My vote is for fiscal cliff.

  2. CFloyd

    I don’t agree with “she” as the word of the millennium – for one thousand years the most significant or important word is “she”? Not “freedom” or “liberty” or “exploration”? This is the period from 1000 A.D., to 2000 A.D. right? That seems to be a very modern, and feminist, politically motivated choice. I don’t agree with it, but it would have made more sense as the word of the last century – definitely the last half a century! I’m surprised “gay” wasn’t included somewhere.

    For 2012, it probably will be fiscal cliff, but that’s sad since it was really only brought up in the waning weeks/month of the year. But what would be a choice that was more year-round? Terror? school massacre? I can’t even recall things from last January, or April, other than my kids birthdays. ­čśŤ

  3. Brian Wasko
    Brian Wasko01-01-2013

    That’s two votes for “fiscal cliff.”

    I didn’t mention this before, but I also like the sound of fiscal cliff. Both words include f, i, c, and l. I like that it begins and ends with an f sound. A fiscal cliff is a bad thing, of course, but its name has a certain ring.

  4. Brian Wasko
    Brian Wasko12-30-2012

    Okay, I’m going to go with “fiscal cliff.” Maybe I’m biased because I’m into politics, but that seems like the year’s catchword. On the other hand, maybe it just feels that way here in the waning months.

    • JJ

      I agree with you. It probably is going to be the word of the year.

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